The three actors of the controversial “N*gger, W*t back, C*ink: The Race Show!” brought an in-your-face response to racial slurs that have become hushed no-no’s in today’s American society. They chanted, sang, rapped and yelled the three derogatory terms without shame or remorse.
And they say it’s all to spread tolerance. They say that the blunt use of the words is necessary in the process of de-powering the very words they are using.
Wednesday evening, in the Lory Student Center Theater, the young actors tackled complex topics like immigration, the definition of “black” and the broad ethnic category called “Asian” in front of more than 500 audience members.
In the beginning of the show, during the skit called “The List Game,” each actor lists off stereotypes associated with his specific minority group. Miles Gregley, the African-American actor, lists off things like watermelon and pimping, while Latino actor Rafael Agustin regurgitates stereotypes like grape-picker and bean-eater. And Philipino actor Allan Axibal pipes in with ping-pong and rice-eater.
Until they all realize they do have some things in common, like “public school,” “strong family ethics” and “middle class.”
Three parts of a whole
A day before the show, while sitting down with the three young actors from Los Angeles, it seemed apparent that this skit, along with various other scenes that make up the play, represents conversations the friends have actually had.
And, in light of these dialogues, they decided to take the rather emotional topics to the stage in hopes of confronting the derogatory words that have forced each of them to question both self and other.
“It was like, ‘OK, this is what we’ve got, let’s throw it in the pot’ and this is what we came up with,” Axibal said.
“It’s us being us,” Gregley added. “We work off each other.”
They certainly do. Even off stage, sitting in lounge chairs and casually talking about the show, race and a multitude of other topics, they seem completely at ease with each other, bouncing off each other’s jokes and finishing each other’s sentences.
“We know stereotypes do exist . we want to show how ridiculous the stereotypes are,” Gregley said.
“It about small changes,” Agustin added. “At the very core, there is only one race, the human race,” Agustin said. “We are more alike than we are different.”
But it’s difficult for some people to see past appearances while, at the same time, realizing the differences are important.
So, what’s in a word?
“Some people say they don’t see color,” said Black Student Services administrative assistant Theresa Grangruth. “But color does exist . and there needs to be a dialogue about certain names, the way we treat people.”
So, when the Association for Student Activity Programming, or ASAP, made the initial decision to bring N*W*C* to campus, they did so with the motivation to promote an intelligent dialogue about the issues of racism, derogatory terms, minority history and current events.
And, months later, when the group made its way to CSU, ASAP had to make a decision: to spell out the racial slurs that make up the name of the performance, or not to.
In the beginning, they decided to go ahead with the shock value of printing the words spelled out, which has not been an uncommon route to take as many universities-Auburn University and UCLA among others-have taken the same stance. Yet, after posters, fliers and handouts were all printed, ASAP had second thoughts.
And, after careful consideration and dialogue with various advocacy offices, ASAP chose to change the marketing strategy, to the relief of many.
Guadalupe Salazar, director of El Centro Student Services, chose not to post any promotional material while the slurs were entirely spelled out.
“After they changed it (the poster) I posted it,” she said. “It provided more information.”
Salazar hopes that the play will bring about a lasting dialogue for the CSU community, she said.
“If people have integrity, respect and honesty-if we come from that- then we can continue to grow . we can plant the seeds of what’s acceptable and what’s not,” Salazar said.
Marcus Eliott, assistant director for Black Student Services, also hopes for intelligent discussion in the days following the play.
“The dialogue shouldn’t stop after they leave,” he said.
In fact, maybe the dialogue should have begun long before they got here.
“I was thinking about the word yesterday, wetback, because I have used it,” Salazar said. “Long before I went to college and learned what it meant, I used it.”
Reagan Le, assistant director for Asian Pacific American Student Services, or APASS, encouraged students to attend the play even though he had mixed feelings about the use of the racial slurs.
“This will provide a safe environment (for dialogue),” he said.
In the end, the audience gave a standing ovation and ASAP, alongside N*W*C*, provided an opportunity for a lasting open dialogue.
Associate News Managing Editor Jessi Stafford can be reached at email@example.com.
What: Open discussion about N*W*C*
Where: LSC Sunken Lounge
When: Today 12:30- 1:30